BLOCK PEACEFUL CHANGE AND FACE VIOLENT CHANGE
People's Democratic Party Presidential aspirant and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, put it more directly and in any case, in the exact language of the author late American President, John F. Kennedy almost half a century ago. Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable. Or this ordinary warning, President Goodluck Jonathan generated another controversy with his own counter warning to institute trial against any person or group of persons expressing such 'rubbish,' as Jonathan concluded his threat.
What was new in Atiku's warning? Would he be the only or first Nigerian to give that specific warning? When therefore Jonathan was alluding that warning to a threat to Nigeria's sovereignty, the whole thing was laughable. In fact, Atiku's warning since it was issued by John Kennedy about fifty years ago, has become ordinary clichÃ© for any critical assessment of Nigerian political situation even under the military. If the military did not arraign such critics for such warnings, how could a civilian president hope to impress anybody with such empty threat except to impress court jesters around him?
Did Jonathan observe Atiku Abubakar's reaction? The man rebuffed the trial threat. For what crime, anyway, would Atiku be tried? Any potential trial especially at this period will be political and the only certain beneficiary will be Atiku Abubakar who must have discerned the gift from Jonathan. In plain language, Atiku Abubakar will instantly become the underdog even among delegates to determine the party's ticket at PDP primary elections. Certain points are noticeable in this controversy. For example, it is obvious that in allowing himself to react the way he did to Atiku's warning, Goodluck Jonathan did not avail himself with the history, especially the counter product of political trials in Nigeria, moreso in a civilian era in such a complex country as ours.
Second, as once pointed out here only a few weeks ago, your stand on public issues largely depends on from what part of the country you are.
The State Security Services (SSS) does not also seem to be helping mattes with its utterances on national controversies. If such postures are not politically partisan, the result is rush to judgment. We were in this country Ijaw when leader and former information leader threatened that 'we will secede if our son is not made President' (to succeed ailing Umaru Yar'Adua) did the SSS publicly react to that threat to national security? Did Goodluck Jonathan himself react to that threat to Nigeria's sovereignty?
When there were fatal bombings in Abuja last October, MEND claimed responsibility but the SSS informed the nation that its investigations had show that 'prominent and unscrupulous Nigerians are behind the bombings. Yes, there is no proof of any conspiracy, but was the SSS not embarrassed by the co-incidence of its statement on the bombings and Henry Okah's allegation from South African jail that he (Okah) was contacted by an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan suggesting that he (Okah) should accuse Northern Nigerian leaders as sponsors of the bombings?
Otherwise, who are those unscrupulous prominent Nigerians? Why has the SSS not arrested them for necessary trial?
Just as President Jonathan was issuing his threat after Atiku Abubakar warning, the SSS was also expressing its grave concern over '… the unguarded, reckless and divisive utterances of some prominent politicians. The SSS has also noted that these utterances, apart from being very inflammatory and extremely inciting, are of deep and grave national security concern.
So when Edwin Clark threatened that Ijaws would secede, he was not inciting, he was not unguarded, he was not reckless,, he was not divisive and his threat did not pose deep and grave national security concern? If SSS could pounce on Atiku's warning to publicly rebuke him, why did the SSS fail to similarly publicly rebuke Edwin Clark? Yes, it has nothing to do with their respective zone of origin. One is from South South and the other is from North east.
How about this? We have to be cautions with authencity of media reports but the fact remains that a prominent Nigerian lawyer Ben Nwabueze till today, has not corrected a statement credited to him at a book launch at the Institute of International Affairs in Lagos not long ago.
Ben Nwabueze, for whatever reasons was reported by virtually entire Nigerian print and electronic media to have openly called for BLOODY REVOLUTION in Nigeria. This was not a warning or advice but direct call for bloody revolution. Was the SSS alarmed at Nwabueze's call as unguarded, inciting, divisive, inflammatory or of grave concern to national security?
Worse still, Ben Nwabueze is not an ordinary Nigerian and noticeably, the man is not vrying for Goodluck Jonathan's job at Aso Rock. But he (Ben Nwabueze) is the vice chairman of Goodluck Jonathan's Presidential Advisory Council.
Did President Jonathan himself, on account of that call for bloody revolution, consider Ben Nwabueze as making inciting statement or threatening Nigeria's sovereignty or talking 'rubbish'? Jonathan couldn't because Nwabueze was not doing anything wrong except expressing informed view of Nigerian situation.
What then is the difference if any, between the statements of Atiku Abubakar and Ben Nwabueze, one warning against the danger of violent change and the other expressing danger on the situation in the country?
Why then should President Jonathan and the SSS keep mum on one while grandstanding on the other? We must also note that one is from North east zone while the other is from South east zone. Nigerians are sensitive about this indiscretion.
On his part, Goodluck Jonathan should remember history. Before the 1962 treason trial of Obafemi Awolowo, the old man's party, the Action Group, faced stiff opposition from the NCNC in Western region. That treason trial completely ended the existence of NCNC as a political party in the West and all sympathy transferred to Awolowo.
In the build up to 2011 elections, Jonathan may as well prepare for goodbye to Aso Rock if he makes the mistake of docking a political rival for any criminal trial moreso on a charge than cannot easily be proved.
Furthermore, Jonathan may as well cool down and disregard any brief on alleged incitement to violence. Again, history at home and abroad should be his guide.
Violent public reaction against rigged elections (making peaceful change impossible) is never organized. Rather, it is always spontaneous. As if to warn Nigeria, while the controversy on peaceful change or the alternative of violent change rages, the people of Belarus are violently protesting against the purported victory of President Alexander Lukashenka for a fifth term of four years, making a total of twenty years.
The Belarus elections held last week have been written off by international observers as outrightly flawed.
Last time, it was the turn of President Shevardnadze of Republic of George who rigged elections and was blocked by violent protesters who stopped him from entering parliament to address the assembly. He was lucky to escape with his life as he quit for the actual winner of the Presidential elections.
Ondo State in Nigeria in 1983? The voters re-acted violently to discredit NPN's purported victory in the governorship elections, and thereby re-asserted Chief Ajasin's re-election.
Operation 'Wet e' (roast him) in Western region in 1965? Nobody organized the people's revolt against electoral fraud.
And why does Goodluck Jonathan need to bother himself as long as he is not planning to rig 2011 elections?
Indeed, Atiku Abubakar's warning against making violent change inevitable could not be more timely so that nobody would get it into his head that a repeat of the criminal rigging of 2007 elections in 2011 will be a routine. Jonathan might not feel it but Nigerians felt battered and insulted in 2007 that the consolation was just to get rid of those loading it over us at that time.
For the avoidable of doubt, Atiku's warning (exact words) had been invoked in editorials, letters to the editor, opinion features, discussions on radio and television almost everyday, legislative debates, statements by various political parties student union leaders on university campuses and self-assumed radicals all over the place. The clichÃ© will come in handy for political rivals the nearer 2011 elections get. How may Nigerians will Jonathan then put on trial for their 'rubbish' and because they think they are bigger than the country?
Palmerston on Cote D'Ivoire
A formidable foreign secretary in British political history, Lord Palmerston, must have had, among others, a host country in chaos like Cote d'Ivoire in mind when he proclaimed that 'if in the olden days a Roman citizen could feel safe in any part of the world by saying 'Civis Romanus Sum,' there is no reason a British citizen should not feel safe in any part of the world simply by saying 'I am a British subject.' And anytime, thereafter, occasions demanded, even without informing iron lady Queen Victoria or in hardly disguised disagreement with the monarch, Lord Palmerston deployed British troops to protect British interests either in Europe or the British empire.
Such is the situation Nigeria is now facing in Cote d'Ivoire where this week, following attack on our embassy by criminals obviously sponsored by ousted president Laurent Gbagbo, Nigeria had to withdraw its diplomatic staff. That was the only sensible reaction except that not only was that affront avoidable but Nigeria invited the humiliation with its weak and virtually ineffective leadership in confronting the Ivorien crisis.
Nigeria is near enough to Cote d' Ivoire, yet we allow Europe, America and United Nations to dictate turn of events in the West African country. What therefore is the essense of our membership of ECOWAS? The more Nigeria remains indecisive, the more reckless Laurent Gbagbo will get.
What will follow is Gbagbo's organized attack on defenceless Nigerians resident in Cote d' Ivoire. How will Nigeria react at that stage? Is Nigeria the only member of ECOWAS, which collectively has recognized Allassan Quattara as new democratically elected President of Cote d' Ivoire? Why then single out Nigerian embassy for violent attack?
This is an open declaration of war which Nigeria must repulse with altered means necessary. In advance, Nigeria must evacuate its citizens in Cote d' Ivoire or give the advice to that effect. In addition, Nigeria must lead other African countries to recognize Allasan Quattara's mandate as the new leader of Cote d' Ivoire.
Nigeria will be embarking on dubious diplomacy with any offer of assisting the trap of negotiations between the legitimately elected Quattara and a lawless Gbagbo. Why must Nigeria undermine the very clear political will of Ivoriens inherent in their choice of Quattara as their new leader?
The only legitimate authority in Cote d'Ivoire is Allassan Quattara. Does Nigeria again need to buy out of a contraption as in Kenya and Zimbabwe where losers in national elections were kept in office with a power-sharing fraud? What followed in those instances? The actual winners of the Presidential elections (in Kenya and Zimbabwe) eventually were rendered irrelevant while the African Union looked the other way.
If, in the possibility of President Goodluck Jonathan's defeat in 2011 elections, are we being told that with the dangerous precedents in Zimbabwe, Kenya and the current contemplations in Cote d' Ivoire, Nigerians will be confronted with a power-sharing offer to keep the winner off from assuming office? Nigeria is too sensitive for such a risk.
Now is the time to downstate that whoever wins in Nigeria in 2011 - President Jonathan or whoever challenges him - will routinely be sworn into office. That is why Nigeria, must not be seen, even remotely, to be undermining the political will of the Ivoriens. There was this illusion at the early stages of the Ivorien crisis when African Union sent ex-South African President Thabo Mbeki to Cote d' Ivoire to arrange safe landing for Laurent Gbagbo. What was the outcome? Did Gbagbo agree? Why then must Nigeria inherit such a diplomatic state mate triggered by the power-mongering of one man, Laurent Gbagbo?
There is (for now) adequate time for Goodluck Jonathan to prepare for the safety and eventual evacuation of Nigerians from Cote d' Ivoire. Jonathan must move from verbal intent or even assurance to the concrete show of military preparations. In the prevalent and notorious trait of desperation of African leaders to stay in power, ousted Ivorien leader Laurent Gbagbo can go any length. But with Nigerian armed forces in Ivorien territorial waters ready to intervene in any violent attack on Nigerian citizens, Laurent Gbagbo will double think.
In such preparations for self-defence, no country can fault Nigeria.
Again, Goodluck Jonathan must not engage Laurent Gbagbo in any discussion and must not entertain any delegation from him.
ACN in irony of life
Addressing his party's annual convention, the leader of Action Congress of Nigeria, Bisi Akande, accused ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo of incapacitating his (Akande's) party against the 2007 elections. Among the tactics Akande accused Obasanjo of employing was the misuse of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to publish the names of CAN members for alleged corrupt practices to render them ineligible to contest the elections.
Who was then the chairman of EFCC? Nuhu Ribadu. Who today is a Presidential aspirant on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria? The same Nuhu Ribadu.
The great Zik educated Nigerians: No condition is permanent.
It can be well with Ikemba
What really is our problem in this country? Why are we so secretive? A prominent personality is ill and busy receiving treatment. Instead of telling us the truth, those around the patient are deliberately confusing Nigerians. Ikemba Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu's failing health deteriorated weekend and was being appropriately looked after. Then came the unnecessary argument. One side, a medical source, said the Ikemba was being treated at the intensive care unit of University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu.
That's not true, countered the family. Treatment is at home.
Why should there be disagreement over such an important public issue?
It is in our character.
Meanwhile, we must pray for Ikemba's health recovery.